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Free Study Guide-The Once and Future King-T.H. White-Free Book Summary
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Chapter 21

Summary and Notes

Elaine is at the garden, dressed in convent clothes and plump in her misery at losing Lancelot. There will be a ceremony at which Sir Castor will be knighted, and Elaine is at her fatherís castle for that purpose. She has her son Galahad with her, who is now three.

One of her ladies-in-waiting alerts her that there is a man sleeping by the well. Elaine, curious, goes to check it out. She recognizes Lancelot instantly, and cries over him.

Once she collects herself, she tells her father that she has found Lancelot. The King recognizes immediately that he has mistaken the noble knight for a mere clown, and is remorseful. He makes arrangements for his recovery in a private chamber.

When Lancelot wakes up, his mind is clear, and the breakdown has passed.

Chapter 22

Summary and Notes

After several daysí recovery, Lancelot and Elaine discuss their future. They speak frankly and candidly. Lancelot reminds Elaine that he does not love her, and cannot marry her, as that would be a transgression on his Word. Elaine understands the situation perfectly, but would like for the two of them to live together privately with their son anyhow.


The reader will notice in this chapter that although Elaine has been portrayed as immature and hysterical on occasion, in his scene, she is remarkably practical and stoic. She loves Lancelot; furthermore, she does not seem to be deluding herself as to the nature of their relationship. The reader may also be surprised by Lancelotís apparent affection for Elaine. He is able to see that she is likeable despite her trickery, and that the lengths to which she resorted to is not indicative of the state of her heart overall. Elaine is truly kind and caring toward Lancelot, and he recognizes that in her.

King Pelles provides them with a castle called Joyous Island. Lancelot is to live there incognito because of its proximity to Camelot and his reputation as a great knight. Her takes an alias: the Chevalier Mal Fet, or, the Ill-Made Knight. Whether the Ill-Made is referring to his physical ugliness or his fatal flaw (his love for Guenever) is not clear.

Lancelot kisses Elaine and calls her darling in this chapter after she encourages him to hold tournaments and be social while he lives at the Joyous Isle. He is humiliated on some basic level by her unconditional love for him. The author attributes this to his low self-esteem, which his a particularly 20 th century view of Lancelot, but fitting considering the psychoanalysis these legendary characters have undergone thus far in the novel.

At the end of the chapter, Lancelot is stopped by Sir Castor, who calls his bluff and calls him Sir Lancelot. Lancelot is stern and reminds Castor that there must be very good reason for him to have an alias, and Sir Castor respectfully obeys Lancelotís wishes.

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